Tough task for Team of Choice

2014-09-27 00:00

NOT unaccustomed to being underdogs, Maritzburg United will wear that tag bolder than ever before when they take on Kaizer Chiefs in a PSL clash at FNB Stadium tonight.

Chiefs, newly crowned MTN8 champions, have won all 10 of their competitive matches this season and, for now, they are accompanied by an air of invincibility. Short, neat passing and plenty of movement off of the ball has been the recipe for coach Stuart Baxter’s charges so far, and it has brought plenty of success. But keeping the ball for extended periods is not the only area where Chiefs have flourished this season. Pace out wide, strong on defence and attack from set pieces, showing patience in their build-ups whilst remaining lethal on the counterattack — there is quality everywhere you look in the Chiefs squad.

It all points towards a tough night out for Steve Komphela’s side.

United go into the match without the injured duo of versatile defender Ryan de Jongh (toe) and young winger Deolin Mekoa (knee), but they have an otherwise clean bill of health.

There has been little doubting Maritzburg’s ability under Komphela. Having lost just once this season, the Midlands boys have displayed a willingness to play the ball out from the back and have been impressive both home and away with a largely youthful squad against some tough opposition.

Where Baxter has been methodical and rigid in his team selection so far this campaign, Komphela has been unpredictable — giving starts to a host of players as he continues to employ a rotation policy.

The United mentor will have to keep one eye on next weekend, though, as Maritzburg will make their second trip to FNB in a week for the first round of the Telkom Knockout.

But, tonight, its all eyes on the league and while Maritzburg may know that they are well and truly up against it, Chiefs are not taking anything for granted.

“I haven’t watched a lot of Maritzburg this season, but they have been doing well and I know that they are a good side,” Chiefs striker Kingston Nkhatha told Weekend Witness. “Our coach will have been looking at them, though, and we know that if we listen to him we will be okay.”

Chiefs captain Tefu Mashamaite, who was called up to the Bafana Bafana squad this week, has been around long enough to know a little more about Maritzburg. “We know that they [Maritzburg] are always on top of their game when we play them both home and away,” Mashamaite, who scored the only goal of the game in last Saturday’s MTN8 final win over Orlando Pirates, told Kickoff.com this week. “We will have a couple of sessions of video analysis and prepare well against them.”

On paper, Chiefs should have far too much for a spirited and brave Maritzburg. But, as we have seen countless times before, the team sheet doesn’t win the football match by itself. Maritzburg have an opportunity to be giant killers tonight, and if they come away from Johannesburg with anything other than a loss, they will arrive back home with a feather in their cap and all of the confidence in the world as they prepare for cup football next weekend.

Today’s Fixtures

Free State Stars v Moroka Swallows - TV1, 3 pm

Black Aces v Ajax Cape Town

Chippa United v Orlando Pirates - SS4, 3 pm

Kaizer Chiefs v Maritzburg United - SS4, 8.15 pm

SuperSport United v Bloem Celtic - TV1, 8.15 pm

Tomorrow

Platinum Stars v Tuks - TV1, 3 pm

Polokwane City v Sundowns - SS4, 3 pm.

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